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War Games: 1942

May 1942. "Turlock, California. Son of family in the upper middle income group. War games are popular with the boys." Photo by Russell Lee, Office of War Information. View full size.

May 1942. "Turlock, California. Son of family in the upper middle income group. War games are popular with the boys." Photo by Russell Lee, Office of War Information. View full size.


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Earlier war games

Shall I date myself (and parents)?

About 8 years later than this photo, as Dad was instructing me in hoeing and weeding the vegetable garden, he explained how he thought about the job when he was my age: Every weed chopped down was another "injun" or bandito!

Keep in mind, he grew up in northwest Kentucky; at that time, the border of the West, and rode a horse to school, carrying a revolver ...

By the time I had assembled

... and taken command of my army, I made sure they had been issued with the newer M1 helmets, introduced in early 1942

Not to scale.

Nor are they in battle formation ... but what a parade! I wasn't born until 1950, and I was not much into war toys, but that is quite the collection!

Second grade 1958

I had a bag of plastic army men bought from the 5 and 10 and the kids playing with them and myself someone stole my prized machine gun man. Couldn't swipe the metal detector guy or bazooka man. Still miss him to this day.


The trademark as registered in 1924 probably stamped under the roofs in raised letters of some of those models, especially the sleek fastback on the far left. Came in a couple of scales and I liked them because of their attention to detail despite being very inexpensively made.

A dozen years later --

every boy in my cohort had Army surplus web belts to which we attached issue canteens and trenching tools. One lucky kid had a British commando knife. We shocked one another with tales from our fathers. One set of parents, with amazing forbearance, let us dig an extensive system of trenches and foxholes in an unused lot. We had "fights" with dirt clod barrages. What fun!


That's quite an impressive set of toy soldiers Junior has. I'm thinking dad has stepped on 'em one too many times in his bare feet and has banished the boy to the outdoor battlefield.

Not lost on me

As soon as I saw this picture my mind jumped to Mr. Lee's "Enemy Alien" photo shown here on Tuesday. Wasn't it Dylan who sang about a "simple twist of fate"? I hope both boys had long, happy, productive lives.

My war games

The boy certainly had a fine set of toys to play with during World War II. However, my experience at about the same age was quite different. My World War II toys were sticks, rocks and clods of dirt. I killed many an enemy chicken with my stick rifle and sank lots of pretend Nazi ships by bombing leaves floating in the creek with rocks and dirt clods. I built war toys out of empty oatmeal boxes, clothes pins and wooden spools. Sometimes I enlisted horned toads, red ants and road runners in my war games. Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed a set of toys like the boy in the photo.

Neighborhood Games

When I was 10 or 11, a bunch of us in the neighborhood brought all our toy soldiers, boats, planes, and whatnot over to a neighbor's house. They had a very large front lawn and allowed us to set up our armies and navies there. They did not have kids or grandkids our age, but they certainly treated all of us like their grandkids. They let us play in their yard with our toys for the summer. Several times we had to make room for the lawnmower or other yardwork, but they always gave us warning.

Thanks for the memory.

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